Why the Current Class Structure Fails Higher Belts
With the commercialization of Jiu-Jitsu, the current class structure that is now tailored to beginners and their retention somewhat fails advanced students, especially black belts who have plateaued in their training. In a previous blog, we discuss how the common class structure (i.e. old school style) fail beginners, as there is not a lot of foundational learning/teaching in that environment… but what about colored belts who are bored with the same old techniques or those competitive colored belts who need to keep up with new trends?
On one hand, with a class structure that favors beginners with a set curriculum repeating each quarter/cycle, it ensures a good starting foundation for those who are brand new to BJJ. By teaching a “clean slate” per se, creating good techniques and habits definitely pay off (or at least it should) in the long run as they progress through the belts. This is a key time to fix issues early on, rather than just throwing them into an environment where there is little technical teaching and they need to learn how to survive essentially on their own.
On the other hand, technically savvy colored belts get bored learning the same techniques repeatedly. While there may be some variations here and there, for the most part, they will have to find ways to make utilizing those very familiar techniques more interesting to them. However, some may not be that proactive and will get bored. This is especially the time when during the drilling, higher belts will change things up by adding to the technique or doing it a completely different (and wrong) way – much to the chagrin of the instructor. Does this sound familiar? It should because it happens regularly in every academy no matter what the structure. And also, why do you think colored belts are always looking for open mats? They need more mat time – to try out new techniques they’re learning outside of the academy (what they see on social media, videos, etc.) and overall just want more sparring time that they usually don’t get during class time.
So with that being said, what would be the ideal class structure for higher belts to keep from plateaus, boredom, or worse, finding new interests? Let’s first start with the obvious – creating a separate class for colored belts. No, not even striped up white belts. Maybe not even blue belts – but for purple belts and up. Some may think this is discriminating against lower belts but hey, they seem to have more foundational classes during the week than anything else. And also, don’t you think it would motivate them to want to improve to reach that level where they could go to an advanced class? Second, in addition to a separate class, that class should be longer and include a lot more specific and live training. Higher belts want to finish class feeling completely exhausted, beat up, and fulfilled. Additionally, having a “competition style” class may also be another great option (which could also include white belts).
Like any good business, you need to meet the needs of all of your customers. This means you have to have different options for everyone in order to be successful. After all, if you want to build a strong team with students who can defend their ranks, there needs to be multiple opportunities for everyone to learn and grow. Focusing on beginners are great, but don’t forget the next wave of black belts you are creating and having a well-rounded academy.